Archive for ‘Travel’

20 June, 2011

Three Weeks

Three Weeks.

The two scariest words in my world right now.

Lately, I’ve been lying awake at night. I toss. I turn. Sometimes I give up completely and watch Bones.

Because there’s no anxiety that a little grizzly murder can’t cure. Right?

And why can’t I sleep?

Three Weeks.

In the silence of my bedroom, these two words haunt me. As soon as I stop moving — as soon as I give my mind a chance to rest, the anxiety comes.

Three Weeks. In three weeks, I will be going to Russia.

Honestly, that statement is unfathomable to me. I distinctly remember a time only six months ago when I wasn’t even a Russian major. I remember sitting in Russian class the first week, when study abroad in Moscow was brought up, and thinking that it was an interesting idea… but one that I probably wouldn’t take part in. I remember deciding to go and then telling everyone I met that I was going to Russia. But that was then. Russia was a long way away.

Three weeks is barely an eye blink.

And about four days ago, it suddenly dawned on me that I am terrified.

Excited? You bet. For the first time since I took up this unusual major, I’ll be in a place where no one tells me to shut up because I’ve been speaking Russian for two hours. I’ll be able to make huge gains towards my FSI Language Level 2. It’s a photographer’s dream. This trip is going to be forever planted in my memory as my first trip to my area of specialty.

Oh yes, I am excited.

But right now, I’m more terrified. Because I was blessed with a mind that is supremely capable of imagining myriad possibilities of disaster.

I’m afraid of the flight. I do NOT fly well.

I’m afraid that I’m going to arrive in Russia and realize that I don’t understand anything.

I’m afraid that speech paralysis is going to hit and I’m going to open my mouth to speak Russian and nothing will come out.

I’m afraid that I actually suck at Russian and no one is telling me.

I’m afraid that I’m going to hate the food and starve.

I’m afraid of the flight. I’m claustrophobic.

I’m afraid that I’m going to say something inappropriate to someone.

I’m afraid of the flight. Being out of control is extremely hard for me.

I’m afraid that I’m going to fail my classes because I don’t understand anything.

I’m afraid that I’m not going to get everything packed.

I’m afraid that I’m not going to have time in the next three weeks to get everything in order here.

When I lie in bed at night, these thoughts circle my head. Then the OCD Badger grabs them and suddenly my plane is crashing and I’m landing in Russian prison because I’ve misunderstood a policeman and said something I shouldn’t have.

I know it’s irrational. I know that I’m going to have a blast. I know that I’m excited. Really. And I know how to deal with all of these fears.

But if I don’t pay a little homage to this terror, I’m not being honest with myself or anybody else.

Sometimes, just acknowledging that the fears exist is enough.

And if it isn’t?

I still have three weeks.



3 June, 2011

We’re Women

Yesterday, I arrived in Washington D.C. for the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. After being greeted in Washington by an immediate hail storm, I have to admit, I wondered if Murphy was planning yet another vacation-from-hell for me.

I should have known better.

After all, Murphy is a man. He wouldn’t last ten minutes here. At a conference like this, there’s no man who could hold any of us back.

There is a kind of power here. It radiates from the concentration of strong, passionate young women at NCCWSL, enough to power a city. Enough to make me dizzy with hope and excitement; to light up my mind with possibility.

But this power doesn’t really come from the fact that we’re all women. It doesn’t come from the fact that we’re all intelligent or that we’ve all found ways to make a difference at our respective schools. Though we come from all over the country, in those ways, we are the same. And this power, this energy that I’m so drunk on…

It comes from our differences and our willingness to explore them.

Marsha Guenzler-Stevens talked WITH us instead of TO us.

That was made strikingly clear from the first moment of the opening session. Instead of simply giving a speech, the keynote speaker, Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, asked us all to get involved. She turned the tables on us. She didn’t tell us what feminism was — she asked us. She asked us a lot of things.

Do you think that, in your lifetime, a woman will be president?

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Do you feel that you have ever been marginalized or discriminated against because you are a woman?

The result was amazing. Though we did not all share the same opinions, we did share the floor, the space, and the time. We considered one another’s reasoning. No one slung hateful words at the people who didn’t share their point of view. Quite simply, we listened, we absorbed, we shared, and we learned.

Just imagine if we could get congress to try that approach.

In every day life, sometimes it feels as if I’m talking to a wall. I go off on comparative social linguistics or start talking about language and identity, and people — at BEST — smile and nod politely. More often than not, they seem to simply tune me out. If I want to explore the intersectionality of language, disability identity, advocacy, and gender discrimination, I usually have to do it all in my head. (You all know already, of course, that it’s confusing enough in there without my having full blown debates with myself.)

Here, my words matter. Everyone’s words matter. Here, people want to hear what I have to say, and I want to hear how they respond. It challenges me to think more clearly and to incorporate new ideas.

Here, everyone cares about something. And even if we don’t care about the same things, we all care about each other. Here, you’d be hard-pressed to find apathy.

That is the kind of passion it takes to change the world.

Tonight, I had the privilege of hearing some amazing women speak. Women who have already used their passions to change our world for the better. I look at them and I see what I could become, what I could accomplish.

And in a way, I think they look at us and see that we are their accomplishment. They gave us this future. They lit a fire in us that won’t be put out.

It was a great honor tonight to meet and speak with these women. Natalie Randolph, the only high school varsity football coach who is a woman; Swanee Hunt, whose work with Bosnian War refugees nearly brings me to tears and is only one of the many ways she’s served us; Lisa Jackson, whose science skills are put to use  leading the EPA; Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, who reminds me that working in higher education is absolutely worthwhile; and Connie Chung, who paved the way for women in media.

Connie Chung, as it turns out, is funny.

And brilliant.

And nice.

Me with Connie Chung

I am so glad that I got the chance to listen to her.

She challenged us all to take credit for our accomplishments. To stop being afraid to grab success with both hands. To laugh out loud. To persevere.

We will, of course.

We’re leaders.

We’re women.


2 June, 2011

Notes From Maryland

Last night:

I stayed up all night packing.

I lost my credit card and had to back track it to the restaurant where I’d eaten dinner.

I made a two hour round trip to Lockhart to drop off the Cooper Puppy.

I played hide and seek with Murphy. Items still missing include car charger for laptop and purple nail polish. I’ll be printing the likenesses on milk cartons as soon as I get home in the homes that they turn up.

Do people still drink milk from cartons?

I dont’ trust em. Drinking out of cardboard doesn’t seem all together sane. Cardboard is paper. And when paper gets wet, it often disintegrates. Just saying


I left my house at 6:30.

I went to Houston so that I could fly to Washingon D.C. with the Inspire girls for a conference on women student leaders.

There was a problem with the check-in desk and our first flight was delayed. We took a later flight.

I got on an airplane for the first time in three years. The back of the plane. Middle seat. Between two strange men. One of whom had a cough.

I cried. Literally.

I HATE airplanes.

But I still use em.

When we got off the plane, it hailed. Immediately.

I suppose, in that small way, we were lucky it was after and not before.


I am lying in a dorm room at the University of Maryland.

I had a piece of homemade chocolate cream pie at a diner.

I had more fun than I’ve had in ages hanging with my friends.


I will develop blisters walking around Washington D.C.

Too much information?

Sorry. I’m going on my 37th hour without sleep and passed coherency ages ago. Forgive my nonsensicalness. Nonsensibility. Nonsense.

Purple Pancake. Lemon grass. Bedsheets. Brain no longer workey.

Until tomorrow,


20 March, 2011

How Do You Capture a Moment?

“You have to close your eyes,” he told me.


“I won’t let you fall.”

“Okay. You aren’t going to push me over the edge, are you?” I asked, joking.

I felt the rocky terrain under my feet, the cool wind biting through my jacket, and his warmth against me. Anticipation… careful not to trip, but knowing he’d catch me if I stumbled.

“You can’t look.” He said again.

As we got closer to the edge, he wrapped his hand over my eyes. It was warm and rough, calloused from hard work.

“Stop, here.” He told me. “Bend your knees a little. This can get pretty intense.” He stood behind me. Held me. I leaned back against him, waiting… waiting… aware of the tourists over by the beaten path that we’d so carefully avoided, and knowing that we stood here on the edge completely alone.

“Okay.” He said. “You can look.”

And then, I opened my eyes.

The images aren’t enough to capture the vastness of The Grand Canyon. It was my first time there, and though I’d seen pictures and movies, and read about it in books, nothing could have prepared me for the moment of “take your breath away.” I must have stood there for ten minutes, holding my camera, unable to do anything but stare and soak in the color.

“How,” I asked, “do I capture this?”

The truth is, it was the moment I wanted saved more than the landscape before me. Though beautiful and worthy of capture, the landscape will be there, like Simon and Garfunkel’s Boxer, “After changes upon changes…more or less the same.” The moment, though…

The truth is, it was one perfect moment on a trip that was exhausting and draining. It was one perfect moment in time, between stretches of aching about things that I couldn’t change, couldn’t fix, and couldn’t help. But it was one perfect moment, that I wish I could hold in the palm of my hand like the stones I picked up and brought back. A tangible reminder of the beauty, the immensity, and the constant.

The truth is, moments aren’t rocks to be polished. No… they’re more like butterflies. Beautiful and short-lived. You can spend all day chasing them, and even try to jar them, but the laws of nature dictate that they won’t last. All you can really do is enjoy them while they’re there… and then…

Close your eyes. Picture the butterfly wings, the yellows and oranges and blues. See the flight, the sunlight reflecting. Feel it brush your shoulder.

Feel his arms around you. His breath on your skin. His heart beating against yours.

Keep your eyes closed. Because when you open them, the moment will be gone.